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When I started down this PBL path, I was a veteran teacher with over 10 years of traditional teaching experience. Now I am at the end of my teaching career and I am on a quest to better understand how to use pbl with young students.

As a new pbl teacher, I learned from the best educators at the New Tech Network . In addition, I made use of BIE.org (now PBL Works) resources. I spent 4 years as a high school pbl teacher teaching math and engineering and honing my pbl skills. That led to work as a consultant with PBL Works. Within the first year of being a pbl consultant, I was thrust upon a situation I had no experience with – helping K – 2 teachers understand how to teach in a pbl framework.

One of my PBL Works mentors told me these words of wisdom: “Elementary teachers love all of the fluff and making the learning fun but they sometimes forget to plan around the content. High school teachers are all about the content but sometimes forget to plan how to make a project interesting and fun.”

Move ahead to 2020 and I have just signed a contract to write two books for Prufrock Press. These books will be follow-ons to our first book, Project Based Learning in the Math Classroom (6 – 10), by myself and Telannia Norfar. One book will cover grades K – 2 and the other grades 3 – 5. They will have words of wisdom as well as project ideas for teachers to use in their own planning. The key will be to demonstrate how to use pbl with young students. But to become more knowledgeable in pbl at the elementary level I needed to find some experts in this area.

Luckily, I feel fortunate to know several educators I can call friends and experts. They are currently consulting (or have consulted) with PBL Works and they have written books that are incredibly helpful to teachers with little or no experience using pbl processes in their elementary classroom. Here are four books I purchased and can recommend for helping you understand project based instruction in the elementary classroom.

Books used as references

The “original” book, that I have had in my possession for about 8 years now, would be PBL In the Elementary Grades. This book is not just for elementary teachers because it has really great information about the thought processes used in planning a pbl project. I have recommended it to teachers at all levels and I have used it as I planned high school math and engineering projects.

The next three books are fresh off the press (2019 and 2020 publishing dates) and are written by people I know and trust. The first book, Authentic Project Based Learning in Grades 4 – 8, is written by Dayna Laur who I have known for as long as I have been a pbl teacher. She has helped thousands of teachers over the years understand the importance of bringing authenticity to classroom projects.

The next book I am using is called Keep it Real with PBL by Jennifer Pieratt who I worked closely with during our overlapping time with the New Tech Network. She is someone who has focussed on elementary teaching but is considered a pbl expert for all grades and subjects. The final book I am using as a reference for my exploration of pbl at the elementary level is Implementing Project Based Learning in Early Childhood. This book is by three awesome teachers: Sara Lev, Amanda Clark, and Erin Starkey. Each of them, in their own right, are legit experts. Putting them together makes this book a must have for anyone interested in helping students go deeper with learning at the beginning years of the educational process.

Why, you may ask, am I doing so much research when I have been teaching with pbl processes for nearly a decade? Well the answer is simple, “Yes, there is a right way to do pbl.” And, there is a right way to teach in the elementary classroom. What I need to learn is the proper way an elementary classroom should be facilitated. Then I can take my pbl expertise and overlay that with the elementary framework. And then, we can ensure that teachers are armed with all of the tools to provide quality pbl for young students.

In Part 2 I will talk about getting started with the K – 2 book; How I created 2 projects and how I received feedback on the projects to ensure they would meet the mark with teachers who interact with the book. Stay tuned…

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